Beat the relationship blues
GETS THE EXPERTS' ADVICE ON makING it together through january
Increasingly, couples are having their wedding vows put to the test by austerity budgets, unemployment and negative equity, among other challenges. For better or worse is beginning to feel like a whole lot of bad times for young couples and January is the month when relationships are at their greatest risk of hitting the rocks.
Every year more couples file for divorce at this time and it's felt that a holiday spent together with an unhealthy amount of booze and an incipient feeling of being broke drives many to feel their relationship is all about worrying and not much wonderment. It's utterly understandable yet, before throwing in the towel, an adjustment in expectations and attitudes when it comes to love and sex can help a couple put a new glow on those tarnished expectations, experts believe.
"It's an oxymoron, but a couple needs some planned spontaneity in their lives when it comes to romance and sex," says psychologist Allison Keating. "They need to have planned date nights, when they dress up for each other, and make time for each other," says the founder of the bWell Clinic in Malahide.
"Romance and sex begin in the mind, when there's a huge anticipation around meeting up with someone and wondering what will or won't happen," Allison says.
"Not surprisingly this mystery can go out the window when you're a long-time couple. You know each other too well for there to be any surprises," she says. "I'm not talking about dressing up in a kinky way, but in a thoughtful way, which will make you feel good about yourself and make the other person feel that they are being paid some attention," the psychologist advises.
"Our sex drive is affected by feelings of hope and optimism, so it's understandable if the economy has an affect on our sex lives. On the up side, people with active sex lives are physically and mentally healthier, and probably are more awake to the pleasures and possibilities in life," Allison says.
Stephen Cummins is director of marriage education at ACCORD, and says, "Christmas is over and we're tired and cranky and unsure of the future and, as often happens when we feel this way, we take out our frustrations and bad moods on those nearest and dearest to us.
"Bills have to be paid and we're living in uncertain times," says Stephen, who prepares couples for marriage. "Those closest to us can be a source of support. Communication, as ever, is at the heart of coping with this uncertain future."
He goes on, "Two heads are better than one, and an acknowledgement that a couple are in this together can be a source of comfort to them. The communication I'm suggesting here isn't of the type where you send a text message to your wife/husband saying 'I'll be late home this evening'. There is need for a sit-down, face-to-face conversation, where one speaks and the other listens. Then swap and the listener is allowed to speak."
Stephen adds, "Most couples can acknowledge that they've had good and bad experiences throughout their relationship. Yet something sustained them in the past and it should be valued more now than ever, and used in the present circumstances to help them go forward.
"Bringing joy into a relationship can be daunting, yet with a little imagination, couples can find ways of steering a course through the most difficult of times. The secret is to discuss what it is you like doing and what have you done in the past to bring joy to your relationship," Stephen says.